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    Re: Should I question Pliny?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Sep 6, 18:56 -0700

    I wrote previously:
    "My guess would be that those ambassadors were impostors. It was not an 
    uncommon game until rather recently. One could travel among the potentates 
    and royalty of the civilized world treated like an honored guest, wined and 
    dined and entertained."
    Since it's such a likely theory, I wondered if anyone else had suggested it. 
    And as usual, there's nothing new under the Sun, and the answer is yes.
    In 1815, Latronne wrote in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy (translated from the French):
    "But the absurdities that they (the ambassadors) claimed for their island, 
    prove clearly that they had never been there (to Ceylon). How else do we 
    explain their admiration for the great bear and the pleiades, which, they 
    said, they did not see from their homes, when it is certain that the former 
    could be be seen at a height of thirty degrees from there while the latter 
    could be seen at the zenith from this island. What should we say of their 
    surprise at seeing their shadows pointing toward the north pole, when the 
    same phenomenon occurs in Ceylon during seven or eight months of the year? Or 
    that the moon does not show itself in Taprobane except from the eighth to the 
    sixteenth hour [day]? Or for that matter, that from their country they could 
    see the Himalayas? And still other details that while not suffering from such 
    startling absudity, are either ridiculous or fabulous? It is nearly 
    impossible [to doubt] that those in Rome must have been fooled by some 
    deception. The freeman of Annius Plocamus would have wanted to profit from 
    the loss of his shipwreck; having brought with him several locals from the 
    region where he had landed, he could have invested them with the character of 
    ambassadors and had them come from Taprobane, from where he was quite sure 
    that no real ambassador would come to cause him trouble."
    Of course, more mundane theories are also possible. :-)
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